Monday, January 31, 2011

EricG's Running Tips #5 Safe Road Running

I often see people doing things (or not) when running on the road that leaves me scratching my head.  I am not claiming perfection by any stretch, but I think there are many things we as runners owe to ourselves and our friends and family to do to remain safe.  I also think we owe it to the drivers to do what we can to let them know we are there.  I wrote a post a few months back which you can read here.  The post was sparked by some guy my wife and I saw running down the road in all black, at night. What a knucklehead!  Here are the things I do to reduce my risk of being hit by a car when running on the roads.  I also list a number of other safety tips which are good ideas but I admit I don't always follow (please do as I suggest, not as I do).

What I Always Do
  1. Keep your eyes open and mind as clear as possible and if I can hammer one point home it's this.  JUST BECAUSE YOU SEE THEM DOES NOT MEAN THEY SEE YOU.
  2. Run against traffic.  I never understand people running with traffic coming at their backs.  If you can't see the vehicle you can't avoid it.  One exception I have to this steadfast rule is when entering a blind turn.  In this instance I always want to be on the outside of the curve.  If you are on the inside of the curve the driver (or cyclist) will not see you until the last second and I know I tend to take corners inside when I drive.  Well before the curve I wait to be sure no cars are coming from behind me, I then switch sides and get through that curve as quickly as possible before switching back to again run against traffic.
  3. Wear reflective gear, especially when dark (this means a.m. or p.m.).  There are so many options including, bands, tape, vests, jackets, and virtually every apparel item can be found with some reflection. I recently bought a Nathan reflective vest, Streak version ($20) but I have been wearing your basic orange construction type forever (I think I paid $5 for it).  I also wear a Brooks Nightlife Jacket when it's colder or raining ($100).
  4. Always wear a head lamp or carry a flashlight when running in the dark.  Not only does this make you more visible but it helps you see too.There are many models out there with a big range in brightness and price.  With 55 lumens and extremely lightweight my favorite is the Pezel Tikka which retails for about $40.  I also have a Black Diamond Spot which is significantly brighter with 75 lumens, but I find the battery life to be significantly less ($40).
  5. Red Flashing LED light.  The blinking will attract more attention.  I have had various brands that I usually bought from a bike shop but recently found a small lightweight version from Nathan which I think was about $10.  I also just found Firefly Supernova on the Road ID website.
  6. If you "think" a driver is coming too close get out of the way early because the moment you "know" the driver is too close it may be too late.
  7. When a driver moves over to give you more room give them a big wave of thanks so they do it again.
  8. Follow your instincts.  If you feel like you are entering an unsafe situation trust your gut and get out of there.
  9. Carry ID.  You can of course order a Road ID or what I do is write my name, age, emergency contact information and instructions in the event I can't speak for myself.
  10. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

What I Do Some Of The Time
  1. Try to run roads with generous shoulders and clear site lines.  I certainly feel more comfortable but it's not always possible and some of my favorite routes have no shoulders.
  2. Run with a buddy.  There is safety in numbers.
  3. No music.  It is very important to hear what is going on around you or coming toward you (animals, cars, cyclists or any other potential threat).
  4. Vary your routes.  I think this is a great idea which I recently read.  I think most runners do this to break up the monotony but it will also help protect you if there is an attacker looming and studying your routine.
  5. Choose a well lit route. Perhaps I should focus on this but I don't.  There are lights on some of the roads and not on others, so I bring my own:)
  6. Carry a cell phone.
There is quite a bit here and it may seem daunting but frankly I think most of it is common sense.  The gear is not so extensive it is burdensome.  In fact, it has become part of my routine and takes no time at all.  Lastly, I know some of the items above are not cheap, but your life is worth it.  Ask someone close to you, I am sure they will agree.  Be safe.  Peace


  1. Awesome tips dudes...these rock...I'm all about if I can convince you to order a Road ID :)

  2. Thanks Iman....tell me what is different/safer about Road ID than the card I carry with me with my emergency info and instructions if I can't speak for myself and I will.

  3. Not safer, just more convenient...even if you put the paper in a plastic bag, it still can get wadded up or some moisture might slip in, etc. Also, if you use the Interactive Road ID, you can list as many contact numbers as you want, it allows the EMT or other rescuer to access insurance info, possible allergies and if there is an outside chance your face becomes disfigured, it also allows a picture of yourself. And to me, they also look cool, too :)

    (I am not sponsored by Road ID, in fact, I paid full price for mine...I'm not bragging, either)

    PS - I wonder why my OpenID credential can't be verified on your page when I just did on another page??

  4. Eric, I have a dumb question. What does "Do not quit without speaking to Tani" mean? Is that a "keep on resuscitating order?"

  5. Iman, If they are able to access more information that will assist EMT to help me it is safer. I will look into it.

    Gitsy, Its a great questions and maybe I need to be more clear on the card because it is important. What it means is that only Tani is to make life decisions for me. I just don't want them to stop trying without speaking with Tani who is the one person who knows exactly what I want. Peace E

  6. Here's hoping you never need it!

  7. Great post Eric! I ran the Palmetto 200 last year and it was great to see everyone lit up light Christmas trees running down the road. I agree with you about running against traffic. I kills me when I see people running with their backs against oncoming traffic with their headphones on!

  8. Great post Eric. Really great tips. Last year I ran a lot on the roads and would always run against traffic, much, much, safer. My wife is always telling me to take my phone with me... maybe I should listen to her ;-) Off now to check out the Road ID. Cheers

  9. Excellent post, yours is one of very few that I have read that applies what I think to be a common sense exception to the always-run-against-traffic "rule." Like you, I switch sides when approaching blind turns as well as steep hills where an oncoming vehicle might crest and be blind to you and have no reaction time to avoid you. I wrote an article covering this and some other at road running safety tips that your readers might like to peruse.


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